Posted 16 December 2004 - 12:18 PM
I'm so sorry to be so late adding my praise to that of the many others who've viewed this thread, but as they've all said, "You're amazing!" To a cookie, what you've baked has looked sensational and it's a thrill for me to see these pictures and to hear how happy you've been with Pierre's recipes.
I'm also sorry not to have come onto the thread earlier so that I could have clarified a few points at the start. Not that you really needed me -- you seem to have figured everything out correctly for yourselves.
Working under the better-late-than-never assumption, here are comments on a couple of topics you raised:
o CHOCOLATE PERCENTAGES AND CHOCOLATE CHOICES:
Pierre has preferences for certain brands of chocolate and strong ideas about what chocolates taste best in specific desserts or with particular ingredients. In order to have the recipes in CDBPH produce desserts that come as close as possible to the desserts Pierre produces in Paris, we tested the recipes with -- and specified -- the exact chocolates Pierre uses in his shop. However, the success of a recipe doesn't depend on using the precise chocolate. In fact, you might not even like the chocolate Pierre proposes. Knowing this, Pierre fully expected that home bakers would use the chocolates they liked best, the chocolates they could get and the chocolates that were most affordable. Yes, the desserts made with these chocolates won't be exactly the same as PH's, but if you get the spirit AND you get the taste you like, then all is well with the world.
A final word on chocolate (at least for this post): Just because two chocolates have the same percentage of cocoa solids doesn't mean they are the same chocolate. With chocolate, so much depends on the type of cocoa bean, its quality, drying, roasting and finishing, that just substituting one 70% chocolate for another might not give you the results you want. The best general rule is to use chocolate that has a flavor you like. After all, in most deeply chocolatey chocolate desserts, there is little to interfere with the taste of the chocolate.
o COCOA POWDER
When Albiston made the chocolate loaf with apricots and ginger the question came up about whether the cake looked paler than the cake in the book because of the cocoa. The answer is yes. Valrhona cocoa is very, very dark -- darker than most other cocoas on the market.
o THE 7 1/2-INCH LOAF PAN AND PICTURES OF SKINNY LOAVES
Seth wondered why I didn't adapt PH's recipes that use 7 1/2-inch loaf pans so they would use pans of a more usual size. If I had known it was so difficult to find that size pan I would have made an adaptation. But, because I owned pans that size and had seen them when I was working on The Cook's Catalog, I assumed they were easily findable -- sorry. In general, the hardest recipes to adapt were the loaf cakes because, as K8 noticed in the photos, French loaf pans are thinner and relatively longer than our American pans. While plain loaf cakes are among my favorite sweets, I dreaded each loaf cake that came along because of the difficulty of converting pan size and figuring out how much batter to make.
o MINI CAKES IN DESSERTS BY PIERRE HERME
KTHull said she thought the desserts photographed in DBPH looked like mini versions and, in many cases, she's right. The photographs were done in Paris and the photographer and stylist convinced the art people that the desserts would look best scaled down. And, they do look adorable. But it's a problem for the reader/baker, which is why everyone working on Chocolate was given specific instructions to keep things "real" -- and they did.
Someone said he or she would have liked to have seen all the desserts photographed whole, rather than in wedges or in production, and yet, we've had people tell us they would prefer that none of the desserts be photographed whole because they look too daunting that way. One reader even said she didn't want to see finished photographs because they cramped her decorating style.
I love the photos in the Chocolate book and I love the process by which they were done. All of the desserts were made in the photographer's studio in Paris. Whenever the photographer saw something he liked -- whether it was chocolate being poured or a tart coming off a butter-spattered baking dish -- he'd stop the action and shoot. While we chose which desserts we wanted photographed, we rarely chose how they would be shot. This was the photographer's decision and it was most often made in the heat of the kitchen when inspiration struck.
I'll be traveling in France for the next couple of weeks, so I don't know what my internet availability will be. But I will try to follow the thread and, if there are any questions you think I might be able to answer for you, I'd be happy to try.
Again -- BRAVO!!!